Master Kirsten Foshaug Vennebo
Title of dissertation:
School Leadership in Innovative Work - Places and Spaces.
This study investigates school leadership in innovative work in the context of school development processes in Norway. The aim of the study is to develop new insight into the complexities involved and the functions of leadership in this kind of work. The empirical context for the study is school development processes involving ICT. Specifically, the study examined two different development projects, analysing the work performed in the leadership teams responsible for running the projects. The data used for the analysis were drawn from the interactions that occurred in the team meetings. Using the third generation of cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT), the study examines innovative work as an interactional process through which newness is actualized and leads small-scale changes. Leadership is studied as the regulation and coordination that take place in the interactions consequential to the directions and outcomes produced. The study shows how development work is rendered innovative when pluralities of perspectives are externalized in team discussions oriented towards problems arising in the work. However, such innovation is conditional on the participants taking the lead in pursuing perspectives that become mediating resources and promoting actions that break away from the cultural-historical formation of work. The study shows that leadership in innovative work is constituted in the interplay between the hierarchical and distributed dimensions of agency and authority. The study also shows that leadership is not under the control of any of the involved actors or of any specific individuals. Instead, leadership emerges in grids of relations that are constituted and changed through group interactions driven by a myriad of motives and tensions. Based on these findings, the study discusses challenges of leadership functions in innovative work and their implications for leadership. Specifically, it explores how these challenges relate to dealing with complex problems and facilitating conditions for innovative work and how they require leadership to be concerned with organizing spaces in which potential new ways of working can be experimented with in a structured way. To gain further insight into leadership in innovative work, future research needs to take the emerging school development processes in places and spaces as the departure point for its analysis.